Teamwork within EU Commission
Other than President von der Leyen’s mission letters and her Leader’s Pledge for Nature, we have no record of any concrete action the EU Commission will do that will internally improve cross-departmental processes and accountability to ensure biodiversity loss is combatted across all sectors. Despite high environmental ambitions in its strategic documents, the EU is still moving forward on a harmful trade deal with Mercosur, and is set to deliver a Common Agricultural Policy that is deemed disruptive for the environment. We call on Commission President Ursula Von Der Leyen to secure the SDG prioritisation of Biosphere across the Commission’s departments activities, to enable transformative change to materialize.
The Global Biodiversity Outlook 5 describes how the world had the best intentions and had ambitious targets, but failed to meet any of the 20 Aichi Biodiversity Targets and for most of them made poor progress. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres spoke on the same topic saying, “The problems include significant funding shortfalls and a lack of monitoring tools. But the main issue, as always, is lack of political will.” On the 28th September 2020, he launched the Leader’s Pledge for Nature campaign in which governmental leaders commit to 10 actions to reverse biodiversity loss by 2030. President of the EU Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, has committed to this pledge and in her video speech states “All parts of government must take on this challenge together.”
We can be tentatively hopeful that through the EU Green Deal and a planned natural capital accounting initiative, biodiversity conservation will become the underlying foundation of not just DG ENV and DG CLIMA but also many of the other DGs such as DG ECFIN and DG FISMA . However, success will only be applauded if the EU Commission can successfully implement and integrate these instruments.
Looking at the past, the EU Commission has failed to ensure that the different DGs work together successfully, and instead hinder one another’s progress. The Mercosur Agreement, announced in June 2019, is an example of such a failure, where three different processes failed to curb the agreement, which has been called the “beef for cars” deal and is considered to be negative for climate, biodiversity, and people.
Firstly, within the EU Commission, there is cross-departmental cooperation (for example for the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030) which should have meant that red flags were raised by DG ENV in the very beginning. Since the trade agreement went public with the endorsement of the EU Commission, one has to assume that either (a) DG ENV was not consulted, or (b) any concerns were ignored rather than addressed. Secondly, in President von der Leyen’s Mission Letter to the Commissioners, she talks about the College of Commissioners who work together to make decisions collectively, each taking ownership for the final decision. If the Commissioner of DG ENV was actively participating in this process, how were there no red flags raised here which prevented the agreement in its current form? Similarly to in the previous example, one has to assume that either (a) the Commissioner was not consulted, or (b) any concerns were ignored rather than addressed.
Lastly, before any agreements or policies are agreed upon, the EU Commission is supposed to do a sustainability impact assessment. In this case, the interim report was released four months after the Mercosur Agreement announcement, rather than before. How was this allowed?
EU 2030 BIODIVERSITY STRATEGY
Other than President von der Leyen’s mission letters and her Leader’s Pledge for Nature, we have no record of any concrete action the EU Commission will do that will internally improve cross-departmental processes and accountability to ensure biodiversity loss is combatted across all sectors. When comparing the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030 to the Commissioners’ Missions, it can be easily seen that the work for reversing the biodiversity loss will be put on the shoulders of only a small number of DGs and that there needs to be more work to ensure that “all parts of government” are assisting with this global crisis.
CALL FOR ACTION
In our Call For Action, we have called the EU to mobilize financial and legislative resources for biodiversity (especially for civil societies and small businesses) along with the elimination of incentives for harmful practices; the recognition of ecosystem services as the main driver of economic and human well-being; and capacity building and empowerment of all in the decision-making process.
In this context, we specifically urge:
The Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, to hold all other commissioners accountable to the EU Biodiversity Strategy and to the SDG prioritisation of Biosphere (Targets 6, 13, 14 and 15) then Society (Targets 1, 2, 3 4, 5, 7, 11, 16), and then Economy (Targets 8, 9, 10, 12) especially at the College level decision-making.
The President of the EU Commission to specify that each DG has employees committed to ensuring that any process and deliverable of the EU Commission helps (not hinders) the SDGs from the bottom up.
Written by one of our baes at Biodiversity Action Europe.